Display road project designs to deepen public accountability 

Public participation

Chuka/Igambang'ombe constituency public participation meeting for Tharaka Nithi County 2023/2024 County Fiscal Strategic Paper (CFSP) held in Chuka town on March 9, 2023. 

Photo credit: Alex Njeru I Nation Media Group

The Constitution of Kenya emphasizes open governance through the empowerment of the citizenry.

It is now mandatory that budget formulation, enactment of laws or implementation of public projects should undergo public participation to collect and collate the people’s views. 

Procedurally, at the inception stage of any project, the relevant government agency should arrange for public participation where the project design is presented and discussed, including its social and economic impact.

For instance, for a road project, the engineers should present a road design, which may include service lanes, underpasses, overpasses, interchanges, and overhaul of existing junctions, footbridges and footpaths.

Shoddy work 

However, there are increasing complaints about shoddy work that even endangers the very users. 

In some cases, residents can’t relate the design presented at public barazas to the commissioned project. 

For road projects, the main complaints include lack of service lanes, poor drainage, lack of bus stops, footbridges, exits and entries, dangerous U-turns, omitted inter-changes and the glaring absence of pedestrian and cyclist paths. 

Obviously, a contractor cannot effect changes to a project’s design without the approval of project engineers. The question is: when do the designs change, at what cost and impact and are the changes approved

by the relevant authorities? Notably, during implementation, the contractors usually erect a signpost displaying the project name, contractor, financier, owner and project engineer, among others. However, the project design and layout have often been missing.

For effective public accountability, road agencies (Kura, Kenha, Kerra) should be compelled, as one of the requirements before the commencement of works, to publicly display the project design, bills of quantities and cost at strategic locations along the project site. With such a tool, the public will be empowered to confirm whether the contractor is delivering the project as per the agreed design.

Parliament should enact laws that empower the public to demand accountability for public projects. 

Mr Mwinamo is a financial auditor; [email protected]